The Pew Research Center has published a study on gaming, social interaction, and civic engagement. Their findings: First, teens play a lot of video games. (No surprise there!) Second, gaming can be a positive form of social interaction:
“The stereotype that gaming is a solitary, violent, anti-social activity just doesn’t hold up. The average teen plays all different kinds of games and generally plays them with friends and family both online and offline,” said Amanda Lenhart, author of a report on the survey and a Senior Research Specialist with the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which conducted the survey. “Gaming is a ubiquitous part of life for both boys and girls. For most teens, gaming runs the spectrum from blow-‘em-up mayhem to building communities; from cute-and-simple to complex; from brief private sessions to hours’ long interactions with masses of others.”
Third, gaming can lead to greater civic engagement:
A focus of the survey was the relationship between gaming and civic experiences among teens. The goal was to test concerns that gaming might be prompting teens to withdraw from their communities. It turns out there is clear evidence that gaming is not just an entertaining diversion for many teens; gaming can be tied to civic and political engagement. Indeed, youth have many experiences playing games that mirror aspects of civic and political life, such as thinking about moral and ethical issues and making decisions about city and/or community affairs. Not only do many teens help others or learn about a problem in society during their game playing, they also encounter other social and civic experiences:
- 52% of gamers report playing games where they think about moral and ethical issues.
- 43% report playing games where they help make decisions about how a community, city or nation should be run.
- 40% report playing games where they learn about a social issue.
Moreover, the survey indicates that youth who have these kinds of civic gaming experiences are more likely to be civically engaged in the offline world.
The caveat to the third conclusion is that substantial exposure to civic gaming experiences is relatively rare (pdf, page 27), experienced by fewer than 10% of teens.
(Via Tied the Leader.)